MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Ja Morant darted in to swipe an ill-advised Jalen Suggs pass. All-alone at mid-court, Morant drove to the basket, unleashing a 360-degree dunk to remind us all that the excitement at FedExForum is just beginning. After all—it was only their first home preseason game.
The Grizzlies topped the Orlando Magic 109-97 Monday night, bringing all the same above-the-rim thrills from last season.
Morant's second-quarter dunk accounted for two of his 22 points. He also added seven assists, four rebounds and three steals in the win.
“It felt good," Morant said. "But, preseason, regular season, playoffs, if I'm out there on that floor, I'm giving 100 percent at all times. That's pretty much my mindset coming into any game no matter what it is. As far as getting along with my teammates, building that chemistry, we've been working with each other a lot. Doing 5-on-0, 5-on-5 stuff during training camp. My film study allows me to also be ahead, knowing where to put them in certain situations where they want the ball. I can say it's easy, but it's not. Obviously, you can do all of that, and the other teams still have different coverages and stuff they want to run. So, it’s just me making the reads, and whatever I see, I tell that to the team and we execute from there.”
The dominant story of the Grizzlies preseason continues to be the improvement of Santi Aldama. The second-year big drained his first two triples in his 21-point effort, finishing 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. In two preseason games, Aldama is averaging 17 points on 60% shooting, backing up the rave reviews he received from staff and teammates at Media about his offseason progression.
“I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from Santi all summer," Taylor Jenkins said postgame. "But the last two games, just an aggressiveness on the offense end. He’s doing a great job of spacing the floor, being in the right spots. His teammates are finding him. He’s shooting with confidence – that’s the word we’ve been talking a lot about with him. He’s finding ways to be active, getting on the boards – 6 rebounds, 5 defensive, had a couple blocked shots last game. I thought he did a really good job. We switched a lot tonight, challenging our bigs to be in one-on-one situations. I thought he did a really good job. He’s playing with confidence and he’s playing with aggressiveness on both ends.”
"I’ve been working for this," Aldama said. "I feel like I’ve earned the spot of getting a shot. There’s a lot of good competition. I’m just going to keep working until that day, and then for the next game and the next game. That’s my goal. I’m excited to get to opening night and see the FedExForum rocking and full."
The Grizzlies continue their preseason slate by hosting the Miami Heat on Friday at 7 p.m.